World Building

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Something that can be forgotten when writing a story is world building. What I mean when I say forgotten is that it can be more of an afterthought, the writer so focused on the characters and what they are doing that they forget that the world itself plays an important part.

An excellent example of this is Harry Potter. All you have to do is say the word Hogwarts and people immediately get an idea of what you are talking about, a school for magic. Some of that is because of the movies, but even if you had only read the books, Rowling did such a fantastic job of world building that you can imagine being there. The same goes for Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series. You can almost feel the constant rain at Forks, the heat when the characters go to Phoenix as you read it. Another book that has the same impact with out having being turned into a movie is Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin. Within moments of reading you are transported to Viking era Britain. With all these books, the world created plays an important part in the telling of the story.

Why is this? Because the worlds these authors have created have rules, ones that their characters need to follow and if they don’t there are consequences. This in turn helps to drive the plot forward. In the Twilight series it is important that Edward does not step out into the sun. It is a rule in that world that his skin will sparkle in bright daylight and there are consequences if he steps into it (the Volturi). It is something that is fact and the plot is driven forward when he attempts to step into the sun, Bella stops him and the Volturi demand that she becomes one of them. This ends up becoming one of the major driving forces in the series. And it all happened because of Edward’s skin and the way it interacts with sunlight.

So how do you make this work for you? Well, here is what I do.

  1. Know the climate of your world and how it affects your characters.
  2. Physics. The Law of Gravity will affect your character just like it does us. If it doesn’t, have a plausible reason why.
  3. Government. Who/what/how is your world governed?
  4. Magic system. If you have this as an element of your story, take the time to sit down and figure out how it works. In A Balance of Secrets, the magic system I’ve created  is based on energy and colour. Certain colours have an affinity for certain energies and can manipulate them. That’s the short version anyway.
  5. Paranormal. If you’re going down this route, do your research. You can break the rules like Meyer did in Twilight, but know them first and make it plausible. People know about vampires, ghosts etc. and have certain expectations you need to be aware of.
  6. Society/culture. Is it based on money, religion, trade, something else? How do they buy things? What are the typical jobs there? Is there a particular deity everyone worships? Is there a large gap between the poor/rich, nobles/commoners etc.?
  7. Education. Is it freely available? Is it even a thing like we know it or is it more a father teaching son type of education?

This list is by no means exhaustive and you truly can go very in depth if you want. But like anything, there is a time to stop planning and simply do. Create your characters’ world, make it believable, but don’t forget to write the story.

Have a happy and creative week everyone and let me know what you think in the comments.

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Using Pinterest for Characters

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Characters, an essential part to any story. So how do you create them? Some people I know sit down and create a worksheet for each character keeping track of their quirks, physical details and any other pertinent information. And they do this before writing a word of their manuscript. It’s not a bad concept and I tried it, because I can see the pros of having a sheet like that handy.

The trouble is that I don’t know too much about my characters before I start writing them. It sounds romantic, letting the writing flow and your character form as you write. And to an extent it is, but it is also a pain in the ass when you realise that your character had a tick mysteriously appear half way through a manuscript. So I thought I would create the worksheet after the first draft. Yeah, turns out I suck at that. So how do I keep track? Pinterest.

For all the fact that I’m a writer and voracious reader, I’m actually a pretty visual person and Pinterest allows me the freedom of ‘seeing’ my characters. An example of this is Magnus Highwater from my manuscript, A Balance of Secrets. He’s a headstrong duke’s son with a penchant for knives. So Bradley Cooper is on my Balance of Secrets Pinterest board as Magnus, as well as pictures of knives, daggers and swords. Another character, Master Lucian, can control fire and there is a picture on my board of a man holding a ball of flames to represent him. There are also pictures of clothing for specific characters, representative of what they would wear to certain events or in daily life. With a click or tap of a finger I can see my characters and it triggers my brain into remembering all about them.

I find it a fantastic aid when I’m stuck as well. An example is the character Tuarwen. I knew there was something striking about her physical appearance but had no clue what. So I browsed Pinterest and stumbled upon a picture of a woman with red hair. It was the first thing I noticed about her and suddenly I knew Tuarwen had red hair. You need to have a general idea before you browse though, otherwise you’ll look up from the screen only to realise that hours have passed. I also use it to fix the scenery in my mind. In a way it’s my way of planning my story without having to actually plan much.

So if you’re struggling to keep track of your characters, why not give Pinterest a go? And if you don’t struggle, let me know what’s working for you.

Have a happy and creative week everyone 🙂

What if?

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What if? It’s a simple question that often signals the start of something, usually some form of problem solving or an urge to try something different just because. As a writer it is my favourite question to ask myself when I lack inspiration for my current project. There is something about the question, the possibilities held in those two words, that fires up my imagination and gets my creative side flowing again.

What if so and so got sick? Or if another character developed a fascination with flowers? The list is endless and can really take your story to places it may never have gone to otherwise.

Then there is the aspect of applying it in everyday life. For example: I’m not sure what I was thinking about at the time, but I do remember thinking, what if…? Then my brain went on a whole different tangent and I ended up at this blog post. I often find myself starting at one point in a conversation/thought and ending up at a completely unexpected destination, simply because I’ve asked myself what if?  It’s weirdly comforting in a way.

Life is full of what ifs and asking them really can change your life.

What if you took a chance on a relationship/job/different lifestyle? What if you took the train instead of driving to work? Sometimes, a small change, a simple question, can really have big results. So ask yourself, what if?

Have a fantastic and creative week everyone!

Social Media and Writing

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I have to admit, when I first started writing, social media was the last thing on my mind. I was writing the next ‘big thing’, I didn’t need to worry about social media! But then came the light bulb moment that, as a reader, I like to see what my favourite authors are up to. Be it a snippet of their latest work in progress, something that inspires them or a glimpse into their writing life in some other way, I like being able to see what goes on. Even better is when they are stuck for a character name and invite their followers to give them ideas.

So rather reluctantly I jumped on the social media bandwagon, figuring that my future readers would appreciate it, just like I do with the authors I read. Surprisingly, I discovered I freaking LOVE it. Instagram has my heart. Pictures to catch my attention and then some words underneath, I’m sold. Twitter took a bit longer, but I’m finding enjoyment with it now. I’ve stayed away from Goodreads and Snapchat because I’m afraid I’ll get really addicted. Facebook, meh, I can take it or leave it professionally.  And my blog, well, I had no idea I would like it so much. Especially when I was frustrated and reluctant to start one.

Rather naively though, I didn’t take into account that other people would look at my social media profiles and judge them. I think I thought no one would really look until I was published and who knew when that was going to happen. So here are some tips so you don’t make the same assumptions and mistakes.

  1. From the moment you first post about your writing it is saying who you are as a writer. Think about that.
  2. It is okay to change, but understand you may lose followers. You may gain some as well.
  3. You are building a base of people who want to read your writing and hopefully buy it in the future. Remember that.
  4. Your followers are real people, treat them like you would in real life and not a faceless computer. (Unless it’s a bot, but that’s a whole different thing).
  5. It’s okay to take time out, but have a time frame and make sure you let your followers know. They are investing their time in you and it’s valuable, it’s good manners to respect that.
  6. Don’t engage with trolls. Ever. Just don’t. The block option is there for a reason, use it.
  7. Only post something if you are happy for the whole world to see it.
  8. Check your spelling and grammar (Something I still struggle with).
  9.  Above all, be YOU. Being genuine always shines through and people appreciate that.

So that’s it, if you have any other tips let me know in the comments. Have a happy and creative week everyone 🙂

Waiting, waiting.

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You’ve been slaving over your manuscript for the past several weeks/months/years and have finally sent it to the publisher or agent. Alternatively, like me, you’ve entered it into a writing competition. The agony of word choices is over but now you have the pain of waiting and this sucks because in some cases you are waiting months to hear back. So what do you do?

Well there are a number of options. You can dive right into the next project, emptying your mind of what you have just sent off, or you can go the other way and laze around for a bit, enjoying the extra time you suddenly have. I, apparently, like to do a little of both.

I saw the housework which had accumulated and tackled that straight away, happily contemplating my TBR pile that had recently built up. But then there was a little tickle in the back of my mind, one that I ignored at my own risk. This tickle became unbearable at 5 in the morning , waking me up from a sound sleep and demanding to be taken notice of. It was another story idea, a fresh one that is not exactly complete yet, but there is enough of it to start.

There are no plans for this story, it merely exists at the moment for my own amusement, but it has cemented something for me. I am a writer, a teller of stories and I will be till my last breath. This fact has nothing to do with being published, or my stuff being read by other people. It is simply a fact about me and one I can’t change, nor would I if given a choice. Getting published is still the goal though, just to be clear.

Now to get back to that story, it’s pretty insistent that it be written. But I’m keen to hear what you do when you finish a project of some sort. Do you dive in to the next one or take a break? Let me know in the comments.

Have a happy and creative week everyone 🙂